Search form


'Down to Earth' Web Sites -- Resources to Help Students Learn About Our Planet



If you are determined this Earth Day to teach your students about their planet -- and digging a hole to the center of Earth is not an option -- let the resources of the Web take you on a tour from the mesosphere to the inner core. Through diagrams, charts, and pictures, your students will discover that Earth is alive with motion!

As a technology coordinator at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Marie Fullerton is continually searching for creative ways to integrate technology into the classroom. When the fourth-grade classes in her building scheduled an Earth science unit on rocks, she saw a perfect opportunity to introduce the students to the knowledge and experience of a true expert in the field -- with the help of technology!

Fullerton sent posts to mailing lists and newsgroups in search of a scientist who would be willing to conduct an Internet Relay Chat with the fourth graders. The number of geologists who responded surprised her. Dr. William S. Cordua of the University of Wisconsin at River Falls saw her appeal and offered his help.

The stage is set for an upcoming chat -- and everyone is looking forward to the virtual meeting in cyberspace with high expectations.

"My hope is that the students will have all their questions regarding rocks, paleontology, plate tectonics, and geology as a profession answered," Fullerton told Education World. "I hope their imaginations will be stimulated and that they will view the study of Earth science with new enthusiasm. I also hope that the process will generate more questions, or further active inquiry, into the subject matter."



Cordua also has goals for the chat. "I hope to convey my enthusiasm for the field and show the students that people do this as a career," he said. "I also think my knowledge can supplement that of their teachers and so help them answer a wide range of questions."

As a scientist, Cordua believes that activities such as the chat should occur more often. "Geologists need to be more proactive in telling people what they do," he explained. "It's easy to stay in a lab or disappear into the field for a season and hope the general public will continue to support you without knowing what it is you are doing. Working with public schools in this way is one way to help keep in contact with the public and do a little public relations."



An e-mail chat with a geologist is one method of using technology to teach students about Earth, but there are many more. If you can't find a geologist willing to chat with your students, you might take a virtual tour of Earth from the atmosphere to the planet's core. Education World has located the perfect resources for your cyber voyage to the center of Earth!



Start at the outer edges of Earth and view images that normally only astronauts get to enjoy. The searchable database of photographs presented by NASA in Earth from Space is unsurpassed. Your students will see cities, geographic regions, landscapes, weather phenomena, and more through the eyes of a space explorer!

Complement the terrific pictures of Earth from Space with some equally terrific planetary facts. Earth is one segment of The Nine Planets, a Web site of solar system information. The page includes a description of the composition of Earth, an explanation of its crust, and many other "earthly" details. In addition, the links collected here are excellent sources for even more information about the planet.



Take a deep breath as you enter the atmosphere. At The NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory, atmosphere is their business! The site has an excellent diagram of the regions of the atmosphere and pages dealing with atmospheric environmental issues such as ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. Be sure to see the site's Earth Day page for more information on the environment.



Plate Tectonics, the Cause of Earthquakes is the epicenter of earthquake information! With colorful maps and illustrations, the site shows the process that causes earthquakes and where they occur. Fabulous pictures from sources such as NASA show topographic formations on Earth and other planets. Diagrams clarify how movement at the boundaries of tectonic plates results in earthquakes.



The National Earthquake Information Center is a heavily text-based Web site with tons of information, especially for middle-and upper-grade students. Find out about the most powerful earthquakes in the world. Where and when did they occur? What was the most destructive earthquake? Check out the FAQ page for great facts to share with your class and motivate the students during earthquake lessons, and see the general and current earthquake information for background material.

Savage Earth is yet another great Web resource that you can use to teach students about the movements of our planet's tectonic plates. The unusual feature that sets this site apart from others is the extensive collection of animations that make understanding the creation of geographic features much easier. Volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are the topics of pages of information contained on this site.



From the Franklin Institute Science Museum, Earthforce focuses on the forces of Earth that cause movement, such as earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. Begin with an examination of Earth's core and its crust to better understand volcanoes and earthquakes. Then read about "earthforces" on the surface of the planet that result in quakes. See the power of water as it reshapes landscapes through tsunamis and floods.

Big Bend National Park Virtual Field Trip provides an opportunity for students to view in pictures the results of the shifting of Earth. The tour presents information about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic processes. Simple graphics enhance the learning experience by allowing students to visualize the creation of various topographical features.



Explore the core of Earth with a tour from Windows to the Universe. This site is unique because it offers in-depth information about the solar system, and viewers may select an appropriate reading level: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. When you study the core, visit the page Earth to learn about the interior and surfaces of the planet. You'll find that many of the other layers of Earth are discussed here as well.

Earth's Interior is full of higher-level information about the center of Earth and its layers. Share the site with high-school students. They will find excellent diagrams that illustrate the structure of Earth's core and how shifts are caused in the crust. The site also explains how theories about the core of Earth have developed without the benefits of direct study.



Our Ozone Shield: At this site, you will discover the story behind the problem of ozone depletion. Track the development of the crisis from when it was first noticed to today. See why ozone at upper levels in the atmosphere is our friend and why closer to the surface it is our foe.


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


  • Don't miss additional lessons, projects, and resources in Education World's Earth Day Archive.

Links last updated 08/23/2011